Saturday's contest between the Cougars and Falcons got off to an emotional start with a rousing tribute to those involved in the events of September 11th, 2001. You knew it was going to be a special day in Colorado Springs, as a packed house cheered for the those who perished, rescued, and continue to serve. The Falcons honored the day by donning a patriotic lightning bolt on the side of their helmets. But by the end of the day, the Cougar faithful were left wanting.
Even throughout the first quarter, as a defensive players, this was a frustrating game for me to watch. As I said coming into this game, Air Force was not tested in their first week, and I knew there would be some new gadget plays this week that would test BYU's discipline. Test failed. While it didn't take trick plays to beat us, Air Force scored on three gadget plays against the Cougars today, and there is no excuse for any of them working. But let's talk about what set it all up.
When you face Air Force's option, job #1 is stopping the fullback on the dive play. It is critical to take away the dive as an option and string plays out to the sideline. We did not stop the dive at all today. Jared Tew, the Falcon fullback, averaged 4.5 yards a carry today. Our defensive line was getting pushed back fairly consistently and our middle linebackers were overrunning the dive angle. This is a bad combo that led big chunks up the middle.
On the outside we continued to fail to tackle well in the open field and by not slow-playing the quarterback we did not allow the safeties enough time to rally up to the pitch man to negate big gains.
The soul highlight on defense today was an amazing one handed grab by Shane Hunter on a Tim Jefferson pass. I thought that was the play that was going to spark our defense and get them going, but in the end the AIr Force run game just wore BYU down...kind of ironic, since that is what I anticipated our run game doing to the Air Force defense.
On the offensive side of the ball it does not get much better. I was impressed by the grit of JJ DiLuigi and Riley Nelson, but our offense has no identitiy right now and it is killing us. I would have liked to see more from the passing game, but the fact is, that we only moved the ball when Riley was a threat to run. I agreed with the half time adjustment to sit Jake. Not becuase Jake was playing poorly, because neither QB was throwing well, but because Riley's feet were the only things extending drives.
Many may try and point to the windy conditions as the reason for the passing struggles, but I was sitting in Sam Boyd stadium last year with the winds howling and watched Max Hall hit pass after pass INTO the wind. The biggest pass play that wasn't? O'Niel's dropped ball in the endzone. It was underthrown, but basically turned into a back shoulder pass and it was one that O'Niel typically comes down with.
All in all this game has left me confused. I truly felt that last week's game was between to quality teams. I believe that Air Force is a tough team this year, but I did not see us giving up more than 18 points. Defensively we have just always had their number. Know I am preparing to pack my suitcase to fly to Tallahasse to see an even more athletic ground/air attack in Christian Ponder. No doubt about it, the Cougars have their work cut out form them this week.